In recent years, the practice of congregational singing has been on the decline in the Church as a whole. Many practices fall out of popularity due to non-importance, but congregational singing is very important and its decline has led to or is a result of the lack of spiritual fervor in the Church. I believe this de-valuation of congregational singing is due to four things:
- Consumer culture - We go to church to be impressed or served instead of joining with one another to celebrate God's goodness.
- Entertainment-driven church culture - By and large, the church has catered to our consumer culture instead of shaping it. The loud music and multi-media presentations encourage little more than spectatorial participation.
- Songs that do not encourage singing - Songs promoting weak theology or that are self-centered do not encourage our hearts to sing.
- Biblical ignorance or apathy - We either don't know or don't care. Maybe both.
Why Should We Sing?
- The Lord has done excellent things. He is our song. Isaiah 12 says: Then you will say on that day, "I will give thanks to You, O LORD; For although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, And You comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation. And in that day you will say, “Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.” Praise the LORD in song, for he has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth. Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
- To echo back the Father's rejoicing. Zephaniah 3:17 says: The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Did you catch that? The God of the universe - our Father - rejoices over us with loud singing. Also as a side note, those who would argue that "real men" or "tough guys" don't sing. I would suggest that your definition of manhood is mired in stereotype. This scripture clearly states that the Lord is a mighty warrior. Also, King David was one of the toughest dudes in all the scriptures, yet he was completely unashamed to sing and dance before the Lord. He even played the harp. You don't see many guys doing that these days. There is something overwhelmingly beautiful when men join their hearts and voices in sung worship to God.
- Scripture commands it. Ephesians 5:18b-19 says: Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. Also, Jesus and his disciples model it. Matthew 26:30 says: After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
What Should We Sing?Based on the New Testament model of worship planning given to us in Colossians 3, we should sing:
- Psalms - scripture songs that help us think about the greatness of our God and hide His Word in our hearts.
- Hymns - songs that help form our theology and doctrine.
- Spiritual songs - songs of gratitude and affection from our hearts.
How Should We Sing?
- Sing with understanding. 1 Corinthians 14:15 says: What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.
- Sing with your heart and emotions. Refer to the previous scripture as well as Ephesians 5:19
- Sing with zeal. Psalm 51:14-15 says: Deliver me from guilt, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
What If I Don't Want To Sing?
- There will always be times when we might not feel like singing. In those times, we consider Hebrews 13:15 which says: Through [Christ] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Pray for a renewing of your spirit as you offer up a sacrifice of praise through Christ. Trust that when you humble yourself in prayer, He will lift you up.
- If you find a persistent attitude of disdain for sung worship, in light of Psalm 51 above, examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5). Have you believed in Christ as your savior and put your faith in him? Are you full of knowledge but not born of the Spirit?
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His loving-kindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary.
Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
And tell of His works with joyful singing.
Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people,
And praise Him at the seat of the elders.
The upright see it and are glad;
But all unrighteousness shuts its mouth.